Supportive performance management can help retention


Schools may be able to combat waning teacher retention levels by adjusting their approach to performance management, research suggests.


With the number of teachers in state schools dropping to the lowest levels for five years in 2018 and the secondary school pupil population alone predicted to rise by 400,000 (14.7%) by 2027, the staff retention crisis remains an increasingly pressing concern for schools.
The Public Accounts Committee has warned that teacher retention rates are at risk of causing grave issues for UK schools, with chair Meg Hillier urging: “The Government must get a grip on teacher retention and we expect it to set out a targeted, measurable plan to support struggling schools as a matter of urgency.”


Low job satisfaction is a leading factor in the downward trajectory of teacher retention levels, with the Department for Education finding that an increasing number of teachers are leaving the profession for reasons other than retirement due to dissatisfaction with workload , pay and a lack of professional development opportunity.  Whilst efforts towards boosting teacher satisfaction have largely tended towards proposals to decrease workload and offer pay incentives, schools may also be able to improve their retention rates by simply rethinking their management practices to place a higher priority on the needs of staff.  According to research, teachers are significantly more likely to remain in schools where performance management policies are supportive and place an emphasis on career development opportunities for their employees.  To tackle retention issues, schools should therefore seek to instil a more supportive ethos in their performance management strategies: encouraging strong management-teacher communications, prioritising professional development opportunities, inviting staff feedback and placing more emphasis in performance conversations on teachers’ support needs rather than on targets and pupil outcomes.

Balancing teacher performance and needs

In harnessing performance management for the benefit of improving teacher retention levels, schools need to balance a managerial focus on supporting teachers and their personal career development alongside more traditional focus on improving pupil outcomes.   Achieving this balance is key to preserving the essential role of performance management in pupil outcomes, with one study finding that a 1 point improvement in performance management on a scale of 1 to 5 equates to an improvement of approximately four GCSE grades per pupil.  In addition, an average difference of two GSCE grades per pupil has been found between UK schools with average management scores and those in the lowest 10% of management efficacy.
Schools can best balance this twin managerial focus on teacher support and pupil outcomes through identifying strategies which serve both aims where possible.


For example, in terms of communication, implementing frequent teacher-management meetings for feedback and reviews can not only help managers to monitor and address problems with performance targets, but can also help to ensure that teachers feel valued and supported. 
Schools should aim to foster a general culture of open communication between teachers and school leadership at all levels, with studies showing higher retention rates at schools where head-teachers instate an open-door office policy, prioritise communication and make a point to meet with new teachers.


The nature as well as frequency of this communication is important to improving relationships: discussions between management and leadership should not solely comprise performance-based feedback, but also include consideration of the teacher as an individual and their needs. 
As well as inviting feedback from teachers in formal sit-down meetings, school leaders should try to take a more personal interest in staff and make an effort to acknowledge any achievements: whether via email or simply in casual conversation.  Through small, positive, personal gestures, school leaders can counter and compliment more performance-centric discussions to make staff feel more valued, as researchers note that “many teachers…do not feel valued or reward sufficiently for their efforts by …leaders in their schools.”

Prioritising continuing professional development in performance management practice is another way to make teachers feel valued and supported. As National Association of Head Teachers general secretary Paul Whiteman observes:


“Professional training [is] not keeping pace with teachers’ expectations. They don’t ask for much but they are getting even less.”


With 60% of teachers leaving their last job for reasons related to career advancement or development, schools must make sure to offer accomplished teachers sufficient growth opportunities to keep them satisfied.  Teachers who perform well in periodic performance reviews and are not feeling challenged enough by their targets should therefore be offered the opportunity to take on new roles within the school as peer assistants or project coordinators. 
By offering accomplished teachers these opportunities, schools can provide quality staff with the leadership and administrative experience they desire and in turn invest in the next generation of the school’s leadership, while also likely seeing benefits to school performance.

Managerial support training key

In addition to improving communication and career development, schools must ensure that their performance management policies provide adequate general support to teachers. 
A lack of proper support can lead to problems with both teacher performance and retention rates, with high teacher turnover more common in schools with poor school management support.  In one US survey of 32,000 teachers, the quality of peer and administrative support offered by a school ranked among the key deciding factors in a teacher’s choice to leave their profession.  School leaders should therefore aim to instate policies that make teachers feel supported, trusted and engaged by their leadership and management: ensuring that teachers are involved in important decisions and that managers are equipped to nurture their staff.
To achieve this, it is important that managers are given proper training in how to effectively support teachers and deliver performance appraisals.  This will offer teachers the work and resource support they need to manage their workload, focus on teaching and improve their performance — ultimately leading to gains in job satisfaction and staff retention.


Support for new and incoming teachers is particularly important in order to maintain good pupil outcomes and build strong working relationships between management and teachers, ensuring that new staff are able to perform well and feel invested in the school.
New teachers should be offered additional support from managers, through initiatives such as mentor allocations and induction programs.  This support should be followed through as teachers progress, with measures such as monthly one-on-one meetings to address teachers’ support needs and performance.


In addition, more experienced teachers should be offered the opportunity to engage in the school’s decision making processes, by being invited to board meetings and other administrative discussions.  Including staff in important decisions will help to promote an environment of trust, boosting job satisfaction and retention rates.  To this end, performance management policies should also aim to give teachers as much latitude as possible over how their classrooms are run and engage teachers in setting their own objectives.

Improving Performance Management

Educate specialises in helping making performance management easier, faster and more effective.Educate supports teachers, school leaders, governors and education managers to develop and implement best practice staff performance management systems that deliver improved learning.

To learn more on how Educate can help your school improve its performance management practices please email Carol French on carolfrench@educate.co.uk  or call 020 3411 1080.


Ofsted to offer secondment roles for school middle leaders


School leaders will be given the opportunity to spend a year in secondment working for Ofsted as part of a new programme announced by the inspectorate this month.

Speaking in Birmingham, Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman unveiled the plans to school and college leaders at the Association of School and College Leaders’ annual union conference.

 The new programme highlights the inspectorate’s current focus on “the importance of collaboration and discussion on inspection.”

 From September 2019, Ofsted has proposed that inspectors do their preparation for a visit at the school the afternoon before the official inspection starts, encouraging the lead inspector and school leaders to work together and strategise collaboratively for the benefit of the school.

 Speaking to union members, Spielman maintained that consolidating “the shared experiences of inspectors and school leaders” via secondments would benefit both groups and in turn the education system, stating:

 “Ofsted is part of the education system, not separate from it.”

 The twelve month programme is aimed at middle leader subject leads and heads of department, who will “get access to [Ofsted] training and development, and, through inspection, gain insight into what all different types of schools are doing.”

 After 12 months, the watchdog says that school leaders should return to their schools “and hopefully will have gained hugely from the experience, benefiting the school in turn.”

 From Ofsted’s perspective, the scheme will allow the inspectorate to “gain expertise from middle leaders” and more closely understand the “up-to-date experiences of running a school.”

 It is also positioned as a vehicle to boost Oftsed’s recruitment of contracted inspectors, after the National Audit Office warned the regulator that it needed to devise a strategy to stem its decrease in staff and ensure that enough trained inspectors remain to carry out school assessments.

 The programme is set to start early next year with a pilot scheme of current, trained inspectors already serving as school leaders, with plans for places to then be “open to any school leader who has had some whole school responsibility.”

The benefit of inspection training for school leaders

The proposal has been met with understandable reservations by education professionals, with many concerned for the implications on school performance of removing key leaders from work for twelve months at a time. 

 In voicing support for the programme, ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton nonetheless acknowledged the “logistical hurdles” for schools seeking to “cover the gaps in staffing which would result from secondments, particularly given that there are currently very significant teacher shortages.”

 Alongside and in spite of its potential drawbacks however, the new scheme also brings to light the valuable benefits that a closer understanding of Ofsted amongst school leaders can bring to both performance and pupil outcomes.  

 On a broad scale, Barton says the secondments could indirectly benefit all schools by “enabl[ing] Ofsted to benefit from the insight and expertise of people who are in the education engine room, planning, delivering and supporting the learning of young people.”

 In terms of benefits for school leadership and performance, the ASCL head says that inspectorate secondments “would also provide valuable career development for secondees, which could help to improve retention rates in the longer term.”

 Ofsted envisions that the secondments will form “part of the development journey of talented school leaders who are on a trajectory to headship or beyond.”

 Leaders who have qualified and served as inspectors report becoming better leaders as a result of their training and experience, learning how to objectively assess school performance and identify problems, as well as how to recognise the good practice and progress that may lie behind potentially misleading performance data. 

 A wide range of experience evaluating the performance of other schools can provide school staff with a depth of understanding regarding the specific challenges and risk factors facing schools in specific conditions, as well as the most effective ways to overcome them.

 Additionally, as a result of their “shared experiences” with inspectors, these school leaders are likely to be more confident and proficient both in conducting self evaluations and in working with external inspectors during their own inspections to improve outcomes for their school.

 By supporting inspection training, schools can therefore provide ambitious leaders with attractive continuous professional development opportunities which benefit the school significantly: boosting long term retention rates and developing an array of management skills key to school performance.

 Such training equips employees with the confidence and expertise to develop their own practice and become skilled policy-makers, preparing them to take on new roles and creating a pipeline of strong, experienced candidates for future top leadership positions. 

 Working with school inspectors to get the most out of visits

Whether staff partake in inspection training or secondments or not, to get the most out of the inspection process, schools should try to be as collaborative with their inspectors as possible.

 To counter and overcome the anxiety, stress and pressure often associated with inspections, leadership teams to aim to approach visits as a collaborative endeavour in which inspectors are working with schools to help them hone their performance strategy and identify the best path to progress for them.

As wide a range of the school community as possible should be invited to share their experiences with the inspectors, whilst school leaders should strive to communicate clearly and directly with inspectors before, during and after the inspection. 

 In order to work effectively alongside inspectors throughout the process, leaders should use the initial phone call and email exchanges with their inspector ahead of the visit to begin an open dialogue and establish a common ground of understanding going in to the visit.

 As schools which are well-briefed on their own goals will be better placed to clearly discuss them with external regulators, senior management teams should ensure that they instil a common internal understanding of the school’s progress and weaknesses through self evaluations. 

 At the moment, with the new curriculum-focused inspection criteria coming into force this September, school leaders would be wise to take time to establish their “curriculum intent” — setting clear, informed and achievable goals.

 To this end, school management teams should dedicate time to reading into their curriculum and meeting to discuss potential changes or suggestions, as well as any evidence which supports of could add to their current strategy.

 Setting researched and considered ‘intentions’ will help set the foundations for a constructive, collaborative inspection as well as providing a blueprint for primary school performance management strategy beyond external inspections.

Improving Performance Management

Educate specialises in helping making performance management easier, faster and more effective.

 Educate supports teachers, school leaders, governors and education managers to develop and implement best practice staff performance management systems that deliver improved learning.

 To learn more on how Educate can help your school improve its performance management practices please email Carol French on carolfrench@educate.co.uk  or call 020 3411 1080.